HHS allocates $100M from stimulus to fight healthcare-associated infections

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Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius has announced the availability of $100 million in Recovery Act resources to fight healthcare-associated infections and improve patient safety in addition to issuing two reports on the quality of U.S. healthcare and healthcare-associated infectionns.

The two reports were the annual 2008 National Healthcare Quality Report and 2008 National Healthcare Disparities Report published by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), which indicate that patient safety measures have worsened and that a substantial number of Americans do not receive recommended care.

"The reports show why we can't wait to enact comprehensive health reform," said Sebelius. "The status quo is unsustainable and we cannot allow millions of Americans to continue to go without the care they need and deserve."

The reports found:
• 40 percent of recommended care is not received by patients.
• Only 40 percent of diabetic patients received three recommended diabetic preventive exams in the past year, and this rate has not improved over time.
• Only half of obese adults and children are given advice to exercise more and eat a healthy diet.
• Seven out of 10 adults with mood, anxiety, or impulse disorders received inadequate treatment or no treatment at all.
• Disparities in healthcare persist. Minority patients receive disproportionately poor care compared to Caucasian patients. At least 60 percent of quality measures have not improved for minorities compared to Caucasians in the past six years.
• One in seven hospitalized Medicare patients experience one or more adverse event.
• Patient safety measures have worsened by nearly 1 percent each year for the past six years.
• Central line associated blood stream infections strike hundreds of thousands of patients each year.

Patient safety has declined in part because of this rise in healthcare associated infections: they are among the top 10 leading causes death in the United States, and drive up the cost of healthcare by up to $20 billion per year.

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) plans to make $50 million in grants funded by the American Recovery Act available for states to help fight these infections, and also plans to make $40 million available through competitive grants to eligible states to create or expand state-based prevention and surveillance efforts, and strengthen the public health work force trained to prevent healthcare-associated infections. HHS is also allocating $10 million in grants to states to improve the process and increase the frequency of inspections for ambulatory surgical centers.

Sebelius also called on hospitals across America to commit to reduce Central Line Associated Blood Stream Infections in Intensive Care Units by 75 percent over the next three years. Research indicates that these infections strike hundreds of thousands of surgical patients and the percentage of patients acquiring these infections has steadily increased over the past six years.

Sebelius challenged hospitals to make use of a proven patient-safety checklist that can significantly and dramatically reduce the rate of these life-threatening infections.

"Patients expect to get better in a healthcare facility, not worse" added Sebelius. "The Recovery Act money will help protect patient safety, but we need hospitals to do more. I'm challenging hospitals to take basic steps to fight infections that are weakening our health care system and threatening patient safety."

To read the reports issued, visit: http://www.ahrq.gov/qual/qrdr08.htm. To read the checklist referenced by Secretary Sebelius, visit http://www.ahrq.gov/qual/clichklist.htm.